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07 Jul 2022

McLaughlin welcomes £12.6million free school meal cash boost

school meals

More than 100,000 children and young people will benefit as a result of the payment, with families receiving £13.50 per week for each child who qualifies.

SDLP Foyle MLA, Sinéad McLaughlin, has welcomed £12.6m funding to provide payments to families of children who receive free school meals during the summer holidays.

Ms McLaughlin's party has campaigned for the extension of payments to ensure that children do not go hungry this summer.

More than 100,000 children and young people will benefit as a result of the payment, with families receiving £13.50 per week for each child who qualifies.

The summer holiday food grant will run from July 1 to August 31 and will provide financial assistance to families whose children are entitled to a free school meal during term time and eligible at the end of June 2022.

“I am glad that after months of campaigning we have now received confirmation that families of children who qualify for free school meals will receive this payment through the summer,” said Ms McLaughlin.

SDLP Foyle MLA, Sinéad McLaughlin

“It’s deeply disappointing that parents were waiting until the last minute on this funding, causing significant anxiety and concern at what is already a very difficult time.

“This money will provide an important lifeline to families over the next few months, for many it will be the difference between being comfortably able to feed their child and having to endure stress and cutbacks elsewhere to make sure that their children can eat.

“While it will help, this cannot be the end of support for struggling families. As part of our Cost of Living Action Plan, the SDLP wants to see every qualifying family receive these payments for the rest of the year at a minimum.”

Ms McLaughlin insisted that while Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen, should be commended for providing the funding, the Minister's own party – the DUP – should ensure more long-term provision for those in need by ending their boycott of the Executive so that more funding can be released.

She added: “If we are going to deal with the long-term challenges around food poverty and the cost of living crisis then we need a functioning Assembly and Executive. DUP Education Minister Michelle McIlveen has provided this funding for the summer, but there are no guarantees after that due to her party’s continued boycott of our institutions.

“Nobody should be forced to go hungry and the DUP need to get back to work so we can unlock the funding at Stormont and get support to people who desperately need it.”

On her decision to provide the funding, Minister McIlveen said: “School holidays can create significant financial pressure for parents on low incomes and the ongoing cost of living crisis is causing further strain on household budgets across Northern Ireland.

“That is why I am allocating £12.6million funding to provide the families of children entitled to free school meals with additional financial support over the summer holidays.

“At a time when many families are already financially vulnerable, this payment will help to ensure that more than 100,000 of our children and young people can continue to access healthy, nutritious food this summer.”

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